Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bayern Munich v Stuttgart: Bundesliga leaders face improving rivals

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 5 Nov 2015

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Bayern Munich will be looking to get back to winning ways in the Bundesliga when they welcome Stuttgart to the Allianz Arena for the Sud-Derby on Saturday.

The defending champions began their campaign with 10 consecutive victories but were held to a 0-0 draw by a defensively robust Eintracht Frankfurt last time out – although 31 points from the first 11 games set a new top-flight record nevertheless.

Their blistering start to the season owed much to the form of Robert Lewandowski, but the Pole has scored just twice in his last six appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side in all competitions.

Thomas Muller has taken centre stage as a result, scoring six times in as many of fixtures.

A double in the emphatic 5-1 Champions League win over Arsenal on Wednesday took his European tally for Bayern to 32 – ahead of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on the club’s list of continental goalscorers.

“It’s really nice to know. I’m pleased to have achieved it, as he’s a big name in European and world football,” Muller said.

“It will be more difficult [to catch Gerd Muller on 66] but I’ll try my best.

“I could do it [if I play until I’m 35-year-old], but playing for Bayern until then would mean playing at this level for 15 years, which isn’t easy – physically or mentally.”

Bayern have been victorious in each of their last 13 competitive meetings with Stuttgart – who last tasted victory against the Bavarian side with a 2-1 triumph in March 2010.

They will fancy their chances of extending that run against the side with the joint-worst defensive record in the Bundesliga this season, Stuttgart having conceded 23 goals so far.

There have been signs of improvement of late for Stuttgart, however, with three wins in their last four lifting them out of the relegation places.

And coach Alexander Zorniger believes they can continue their fine form against the league leaders.

“A master plan against Bayern does not exist,” he told the club’s official wesbite.

“Every team is beatable, under certain conditions. We will go to Munich in order to provide them with a challenge.”

Rafinha could make his 100th Bayern appearance, while Guardiola’s injury worries are beginning to ease with Medhi Benatia back and Franck Ribery closing in on a return to fitness.

Stuttgart winger Martin Harnik (knee) may require surgery following a collision with Darmstadt goalkeeper Christian Mathenia last time out and has subsequently been ruled out of Saturday’s clash, but Filip Kostic could be in line for a return after more than a month out.

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